How to Treat Hormonal Acne
Acne is triggered by a variety of different things, including dirt, bacteria, environment, genetics, health and even the food we eat. Unfortunately, hormonal acne is particularly complicated to understand because it’s caused by what’s going on inside our bodies, and often out of our control. These type of breakouts are more common among women than men, which is typically accredited to menstruation and menopause.
When Do We Experience Hormonal Acne?
You probably remember the frustration you felt around middle school when your skin had bad breakouts as you started to go through puberty. This was likely your first experience with hormonal acne. Women undergo similar transitions in the appearance of their skin again during pregnancy and commonly postpartum, as well. When the hormonal balance is offset – such as during pregnancy or puberty – the body has to work extra hard to correct it. However, some women experience hormonal acne on a regular basis, either due to a hormonal imbalance or sensitivity to androgens. An androgen can refer to any male sex hormone, but most commonly refers to testosterone. Women are sensitive to extraneous testosterone because their bodies can’t use it for normal functioning. The excess testosterone has to go somewhere to be removed from circulation, which is where the skin comes in. Skin has androgen receptor cells, and in an attempt to purge the testosterone, creates cystic breakouts. Testosterone in the bloodstream will also increase sebum (oil) production, which can clog follicles and make the acne even worse.
How Do I Know if My Acne Is Hormonal?
A few tell-tale signs of hormonal acne include breaking out at consistent times each month and experiencing these breakouts in reoccurring locations. During puberty, this type of acne forms in your T-Zone, but in your adult years, it’s more common to find along the bottom of cheeks and around the jawline. Hormonal acne is also characterized by pimples that are deep, cystic, and often painful. One way to know for certain is by having your hormone levels checked by a doctor.
Treatment Methods for Hormonal Acne
Unless your acne is fairly mild, over-the-counter (OTC) products typically aren’t very successful as forms of treatment because they commonly take the form of cystic bumps deep under the skin and are out of reach from most topical medications. For mild acne treatments, try applying topical retinoids. Retinoids are derived from Vitamin A and can be found in the form of creams, gels, and lotions OTC. However, you may want to consult your dermatologist for a prescription-based formula, which is the most effective way to keep your skin consistently clear. Applying a stronger pimple medication can help treat the pain, inflammation, redness and swelling common to cystic acne. If your acne is in fact caused by a hormonal imbalance, consider taking a supplement to restore your hormones to normal levels. You can also use oral medications to regulate hormones and help treat the acne from the inside out. Common options include oral contraceptives, specifically containing ethinylestradiol, as well as anti-androgen drugs. Anti-androgen drugs work by decreasing the presence of male hormones.
Natural hormonal acne treatments are popular for avoiding some of the side effects that come along with prescription-strength medicine. Plant-based options such as tea tree oil may be used to clear up mild hormonal acne. Tea tree oil works by decreasing inflammation and can be found in a variety of products such as cleansers and toners, or even used as an essential oil spot treatment. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) derive from mostly citrus fruits and can help remove the excess dead skin cells that might be clogging pores. For an added bonus, AHAs work to minimize the appearance of acne scars. You can find many over-the-counter AHA products in masks and creams, but be sure to apply sunscreen when trying this treatment method. As a general rule of thumb, drinking a lot of water, getting plenty of sleep, and eating a healthy diet are always good for keeping your body and skin balanced. If your acne persists, be sure to talk to your doctor to create an eight to ten-week treatment program for clearer skin.
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